US News How postal voting could derail the US presidential election

19:00  27 october  2020
19:00  27 october  2020 Source:   lepoint.fr

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  Comment le vote par correspondance pourrait faire dérailler la présidentielle américaine © Provided by Le Point

US elections were simpler when a vast majority of voters came to a polling station to record their choice directly on a machine . This year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, postal voting is exploding, posing human, technical and legal problems.

If the race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is tight on Presidential Election Day, November 3, many expect the battle to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Estimates show that more Democratic voters than Republicans are likely to vote by mail, and the president's camp has launched numerous legal actions to limit that possibility. Overall, more than 300 procedures regarding changes related to Covid-19 for the election are underway in 44 states, according to the Healthy elections Project at Stanford University and MIT.

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In the recent elections, around 1% of the ballots mailed were refused, a proportion which may be higher this time. That would mean hundreds of thousands of disputed validity ballots. As a reminder, the 2000 presidential victory was played with a difference of only 537 ballots in Florida.

What general context?

In 2016, approximately 139 million Americans voted, including 33 million by mail. This year, analysts believe turnout could be higher with some 150 million voters, up to half of them by mail.

What are the rules for voting by mail?

It depends on the States. A handful of them automatically mailed ballots to all voters, but in most you have to ask for them.

In the past, this possibility was reserved in particular for special cases, for example when it was impossible for a person to travel on polling day. But this year, most states have made it open to everyone because of the pandemic.

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A majority of States request that the ballot be placed in a signed envelope and then mailed or deposited in a dedicated place. But some are calling for the use of a second “confidentiality” envelope, in which the ballot is first slipped before being put into the return envelope.

In some states, a witness is also required to sign the outer envelope and provide the necessary contact information. In Alabama, two witnesses are even required.

What happens to the bulletins?

Votes cast in person are counted automatically, and in most cases announced within a few hours (or even minutes) of the closing of the polling stations.

On the contrary, correspondence bulletins involve a laborious process of counting and checking, and here again, each state has its own rules.

Some will only count the ballots received until election day, while others will accept them up to 10 days after the polling date, if they were sent before or on November 3. This period has sometimes been extended compared to that usually accepted, in anticipation of traffic jams in the postal services due to the flow of mail.

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Subsequently, the procedures for verifying signatures, opening envelopes and counting also differ from state to state.

In Colorado, for example, they are open upon receipt. Their counting (provided by a machine), starts 15 days before the election, but no data can be delivered before 7 p.m. on election day.

What possible slowdowns?

One of the possible obstacles to the successful conduct of the vote is the ability of the United States Post Office (USPS) to quickly manage the influx of mail. Reforms supposed to straighten the financial trajectory of the public service have had the effect of slowing down distribution, according to some, and the Republicans are accused of wanting to undermine these votes in this way.

Another delay factor is the verification of signatures. In some states it is done automatically, in others it is employees who visually compare the signature with the one recorded in the archives for the voter in question.

But signatures often change over time, and some people have several different ones. Others, younger, do not necessarily have a signature archived by their administration.

For rejected ballots, some states try to contact voters so that they can confirm their signature and thus allow their vote to be finally taken into account. But it takes time.

Another question: should a ballot be invalidated if it is not placed in two envelopes when required? In Pennsylvania, where this case could involve tens of thousands of votes, it was decided that these so-called "naked" ballots would not be accepted. But some states will take them into account.

27/10/2020 14:42:36 - Washington ( AFP ) - © 2020 AFP

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